A federal judge has rejected a bid from a religious group in Salt Lake City to place of monument of its Seven Aphorisms next to a display of the Ten Commandments, which sits on private land in Duchesne, Utah.
Duchesne city officials sold the Ten Commandments monument and the plot of land it sits on to the family who donated the monument 25 years ago after the church of Summum, a religion based on Egyptian customs, asked to place its own religious monument next to the Ten Commandments. The Summums then sued the city of Duchesne last year challenging the transaction between the city and the family and demanded that the city sell some of the church property to Summum so it could display its monument.
U-S District Judge Dee Benson ruled that the city did not have to provide land for the church of Summan.
The city’s “efforts to disassociate itself from further involvement with the Ten Commandments monument are sufficient,” Benson said.
The district judge said since the Ten Commandments sits on private land, it doesn’t represent the city’s endorsement of any particular religion, noting the city “has undertaken adequate actions to make it clear that the monument sits on property that is neither owned nor controlled by the city, and that nothing on the property is any way endorsed by or associated with Duchesne City.”
Francis J. Manion, Senior Counsel of the American Civil Liberty and Justice, which served as co-counsel with the Thomas More Law Center in defending the display, praised the ruling.
“We are pleased that the court found that the city acted in a manner consistent with the constitution when it removed itself from a church/state controversy regarding the display of the Ten Commandments in Duchesne,” he said.
“The city acted properly and constitutionally in selling the land to a local family who originally donated the monument years ago. The court was correct in determining that the city acted appropriately and does not have to provide land for a monument for the Summum religion.”
The ACLJ is also defending Ten Commandment cases of its own, totaling 20 nationwide.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed for the first time since 1980 to hear two cases involving the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commandments.